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TECHNOLOGY: Personal Health Records (or the story of my continuing poverty…)

Harris Interactive has a new study on the use of personal health records. Around 42% keep personal health records with people tending to do it more the older they get. However, the most interesting part of the study was when they asked people how they kept those records.

Of the 42% who keep those records, (with multiple answers allowed) 86% keep paper files, 15% keep files on in a formal paper record, 13% keep it on a computer. Of those 13%, 11% keep it in their own electronic files, while only 2% purchased a specialised computer software to record their information while just 1% use a web site to keep those records.

Assuming these numbers are about accurate, this suggests to me that the health care business has got a serious problem on its hands and a real opportunity. Buried in this article about online banking fraud is this estimate:

According to Gartner, 45 percent of the 141 million U.S. adults who use the Internet pay bills online. Consumers like the convenience and banks like the operating savings.

The Pew Internet research project has some slightly older numbers

Online banking increased by 127% — more than any other activity about which we asked 2000 and 2002. In March 2000, just 15 million had tried some form of online banking, but by October 2002, 34 million had done so.

It’s a good bet that online banking is now up in the range of 50+ million Americans. And where do they keep their financial records? On the bank’s web site, of course.

So can you keep your health records on your health plan or your physician’s site? In general no — (unless you live in certain parts of Boston, Utah, or Seattle and have the right healthplan). I sort of have an online record, in that I have some information stored in RelayHealth‘s messaging service which my doctor is supposed to be (but isn’t actually) using in conjunction with Blue Shield of California. But for the vast majority of Americans, there is no easy way to get access to your health information and store it. And despite going on 8 years of the Internet revolution, essentially very few health care organizations seem to think that it’s important to provide their members or patients with that service.

Oh, and yes I’m bitter. If you don’t know why, the short version is in the last paragraph here. The longer version is buried in this rather fun article I wrote for iHealthbeat in 2002.

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